It appears that every family, including my own, has an example of a person who committed suicide. Sadly, in my high school graduating class, two classmates committed suicide and two peers had family members who took their own life.
On average, 125 Americans die by suicide every day. The highest suicide rate is among adults between 45 and 54 years of age. The second highest rate occurs in those 85 years or older. A recent Iowa Department of Public Health report revealed one in 10 students had a suicide plan; 1 in 20 students had attempted suicide. No demographic category, race, religion, creed, profession or level of education is exempt.
We are beyond a crisis point and should not wait until September, identified as National Suicide Prevention Month, to take action. Every citizen needs to be vigilant, every day, with this cause. What can we do?
Research is replete with statistics that about 90 percent of people who commit suicide have had a major or even minor mood disorder, which includes despondency, dejection, depression, bipolar disorder and substance abuse disorder, to name a few.
Hence, everyone can bring a major purpose to their life — and others — by watching other people’s behavior. Whether you are in a place of worship, grocery store, school event, gas station, department store, public event or volunteering, watch for one of the following seven warning signs exhibited by people: 1) talking about wanting to die, feeling hopeless, feeling trapped, being a burden to others, 2) behaving recklessly, anxious or agitated, 3) withdrawing from society and becoming more isolated, 4) showing rage or talking about seeking revenge, 5) displaying extreme mood swings, 6) sleeping too little or too much and 7) increasing the use of alcohol or drugs.
If one of the above warning signs is observed, the next step is tough, but necessary. Communication is problematic, because the person you have observed behaving differently or talking oddly might be embarrassed to say how they feel, anticipating judgment, and you might also have the same feelings.
But, you have to be brave, bold and ask questions such as: “how are you doing,?” “you look tired — are you OK,?” “is there something bothering you,?” “are you feeling bad about something?” and “are you under stress?” Then, you have to be a careful listener and say, “let’s talk this out. What’s troubling you?” Letting the person know they won’t always feel the way they do is important, plus you need to say “let’s get you some help.”
Anyone who is in disarray, depressed or suicidal needs professional help. There are seven resources to assist the person receive assistance: 1) primary care physician who can determine if a physiological factor exists or if a licensed mental health professional is needed (insurance companies have lists of providers who are covered by their policy), 2) American Psychiatric Association (www.Psychiatry.org), 3) American Psychology Association (www.APA.org), 4) Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies (www.ABCT.org), 5) Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (www.BehavioralTech.org), 6) National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (www.SuicidePreventionLifeline.org; 800-273-8255) and 7) Your Iowa Life (www.YourLifeIowa.org; cell 855-581-8111 or text 855-895-8398).
It is important for someone to stay close to the person, even if the afflicted tries to push away. Again, in 90 percent of the cases, recognizing suicidal thoughts usually starts by recognizing a mood change.
A community effort, yes, by everyone, is paramount if we want to help our children, teenagers, adults and senior citizens “in need” turn the table on their health situation. Please consider joining me in this fight to deal with depression and suicide by being a daily watch guard activist.
Steve Corbin is Professor Emeritus of Marketing, University of Northern Iowa, and a 1966 graduate of Nevada High School. The opinions expressed in his columns are his own, not those of the newspaper. Disagree? Write a Letter to the Editor and tell us your thoughts.